I was tasked with improving the confusing breadcrumbs on a website I'm working on. They are evaluating if they want to keep or remove breadcrumbs.

The problem: Users can navigate to certain pages via a variety of methods. The hierarchy of the website isn't very clear or defined.

For example, users can search for courses they want to take:

Home > Courses > Cooking 101 > Chapter 1: The basics of boiling water

They can bookmark that course to access it from their learning dashboard:

Home > Dashboard

The confusion stems from the experience the user will have if they access the course from their Dashboard. From the Dashboard, they can click into their course "Cooking 101" and the breadcrumbs will change from

Home > Dashboard

to

Home > Courses > Cooking 101

If the user wants to get back to their dashboard from the course they're on, there's no immediate link to get there.

More confusion It gets even murkier with weird things like mini projects. Say, for example, there's a project on how well you learned to boil that water.

Home > Courses > Cooking 101 > Project: Boil some water

This project can be associated with multiple courses, such as Baking 101.

Home > Courses > Cooking 101 > Project: Boil some water

Home > Courses > Baking 101 > Project: Boil some water

Therefore, when you visit the page for "Project: Boil some water" from any entry point the breadcrumb currently switches to:

Home > Project > Project: Boil some water

This is really confusing to me and not intuitive.

I'm not sure if this is a horrifically egregious issue, but it definitely has the feeling of jumping around the application. This is a simple example and there are loads of entry points into other parts of the website. Your thoughts?

  • I think the confusion stems from thinking the breadcrumb is a reflection of your navigation history. It's not, it should indicate the page location in the website structure. It gives important information to the user regarding this structure. If breadcrumb changed based on navigation, it would be even more confusing. Going back in your navigation is always possible through the browser history. – celinelenoble Aug 31 at 17:29

I have the same issue on my current company's product. I simply prefer to give breadcrumbs as where they originally created/belong to. Like your example,

Home > Courses > Cooking 101 > Chapter 1: The basics of boiling water

is the main point for the entire product, as I prefer constantly keeping the only single point as a way of entering (wherever the link comes from).

If you have shortcuts from dahsboard or wherever redirection is made from, it means just a link to that page. I'm trying to think that way at least (: . Otherwise it wouldn't be possible to handle the situation with related multi products reachable from single sign-on.

Note: You may prefer to display the path as breadcrumb if it has more suitable priority in your situation (showing exactly where as a path the user comes from)

I too work with a product with this problem. I think sometimes we try too hard to make things easy for the users, and then we wonder why they're confused :-).

On balance, if your site does have some sort of 'official' structure, I think it'd be better to show the straightforward/official path in breadcrumbs. Then the user will know how to get back there next time they want to, without meandering all over the place in the way they did when they first landed on that page. My product is particularly convoluted, but there are definitely paths that are possible but that are not justified, that should not be committed to memory!

Your Answer

 
discard

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.